Saints NFL Catholic CoverUps
Title: NFL team’s deep Catholic ties behind role in abuse crisis
Author: Jim Mustian, Reese Dunkin, Brett Martel (Associated Press).
NEW ORLEANS – Why would an NFL team, even one called the Saints, strike a behind-the-scenes alliance with the Catholic Church on an issue as emotionally fraught as clergy sex abuse?
It’s a question even die-hard Saints fans in this heavily Catholic city are asking, and the answer appears to lie in the powerful bond that the team’s devoutly Catholic owner, Tom Benson, and his now-widow Gayle built for years with church leaders.
An Associated Press review of public tax documents found that the Bensons’ foundation has given at least $62 million to the Archdiocese of New Orleans and other Catholic causes over the past dozen years, including gifts to schools, universities, charities and individual parishes.
Along the way, Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who knew the couple separately before they married in 2004, has become almost a part of the team, thought by some to bring the beloved Saints help from a higher power.
Aymond has been spotted on the field at Saints games and inside the team’s Superdome box and has flown on the owner’s private jet. He is known for celebrating stirring pregame Masses, including one before the team’s lone Super Bowl appearance in 2010, when he correctly predicted victory and joined in a rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
The archbishop arranged a 2011 meeting of the Bensons with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square, where Tom Benson kissed the pontiff’s ring and flashed his own Super Bowl ring. A few years later, he served as a witness to the signing of the will that cut out Tom Benson’s estranged daughter and grandchildren and gave third wife Gayle control of a business empire that included ownership of both the Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.
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